For the sequel to a game that sold poorly enough to get a Capcom studio shut down, there was a hell of a lot of interest in Okamiden at the Tokyo Game Show recently. Show-goers had to brave a 50-minute queue to earn three minutes in its company. The Ready at Dawn Wii remake of Okami is just about to be released over in Japan after almost a year and a half's delay, so Capcom is presumably hoping the sequel can ride the renewed wave of interest that it will unleash. The game is, after all, far better-suited to the Wii and DS than it ever was to the PS2, as everybody with an index finger has been pointing out since 2006.
On the surface, Okamiden is everything that you'd expect of the sequel to a two-time 10/10: gorgeous, playful, inventive, extremely well-made. It turns out that Okami's sumi-e brush-on-canvas style downsizes beautifully. Characters are lively daubs of colour outlined in thick black, and their animation is fluid and energetic. The teensy little version of Amaterasu - Chibiterasu, as he's called - is unbelievably cute, yet somehow retains some of the grown wolf's nobility. Having a puppy as a protagonist is absolutely inspired - Capcom has multiplied female interest in the game by about a thousand in one fell swoop, there.
Little Chibiterasu has a lot of Amaterasu's abilities - the Celestial Brush, most pertinently - but little of her power. He can't go it alone. In place of Issun, who was your inch-tall constant companion and source of affectionate quips in the first game, you team up with partners who ride on the little wolf's back. In our demo, this is Kuninushi, a diminutive warrior who serves as Chibiterasu's voice, hint-dispenser and occasional helping hand - having a mouthy companion to do all the talking is a good way of getting around the problem of a mute main character. Wolf pup and pal aren't completely inseparable though - you can press X to have them jump off Chibiterasu's back, leaving him free to go roaming or squeeze through a narrow passageway.
Many of the game's puzzles are based around splitting up to perform comfortingly familiar tasks with levers and pressure plates. Sometimes the camera moves to a fixed point, which telegraphs where you must use the Celestial Brush. Pressing R freezes the game and transforms the scene on the top screen into a waiting, still-life canvas for your DS stylus. Early in the game, all the powers are familiar: circling dead trees to make them bloom, filling in broken bridges, completing constellations, drawing a sun in the sky to illuminate darkness. However, you can also direct your partner by drawing a route for them, instructing them towards a switch or item with which only they can interact. Susano can wander over rickety bridges to retrieve a trinket, for instance, when Chibiterasu is too scared.